December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer (27) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko (94) and outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (center) and free safety Reggie Nelson (20) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
I am so ready for some football games. I’m so ready to watch a game that I am somewhat excited to watch a preseason game. Normally, I can’t get very excited about preseason games because many of the players you see on the field are trying to make the team and you may never see them in a Steeler uniform after the roster is set. It also seems like there are so many more names to keep track of during the preseason and you don’t get to see the experienced veterans, the ones who made last year’s great tackle or that spectacular catch until the regular season games start. However, to me, this preseason is different. There seems to be so many things to get settled during the preseason that I want to see “fixed” from last year. Maybe I’m going in with high expectations and risk being disappointed.
I hope I am wrong, but I still think this is a building year for the running game. I want to see how they utilize the running backs on the roster right now. I’m curious to see if LaRod Stephens-Howling will mainly be on special teams or if he will be getting hand-offs from Roethlisberger. Where will Baron Batch sort out in all this? With Le’Veon Bell on the roster, Batch may find it hard to secure a roster spot. Do the Steelers need a Bettis-like running back to bring back the running game dominance? I heard Jonathan Dwyer’s name linked with Bettis’ last year during a couple of games. Preseason play should help sort that out, but will the Steelers be able to put together a successful running game? I think it would be insane to expect another Bettis-like player because I can’t imagine very many players who can withstand the physical pounding that the Bus took. The players are all bigger, faster, stronger. It’s hard to get an advantage on the ground anymore. Physical dominance is not the issue. It’s about playing chess at a high speed. Where are the enemy pieces sitting right now and how can we move our pieces to get around the adversary? Either way, I’m ready to see what pieces the Steelers will choose for their running game for 2013.
Mike Wallace’s departure got a lot of press even though Steelers fans had accepted the inevitability well before Wallace chose to “take his talents to South Beach…” oh wait, wrong sport. ANYWAY, I had said before that I didn’t think the Steelers were left high and dry because of Antonio Brown’s ability. Emmanuel Sanders is less of a known talent and word is that Roethlisberger went to bat with Steeler management to keep him in the ‘Burgh. Continuity is often an underrated asset and there really is a fine line between that and replacing stale thinking. I hope that Roethlisberger and Sanders have a chemistry that we just haven’t witnessed much on the field yet. Fans are probably also wondering where Burress will add to the team. Well, I think there is a 50-50 chance that Burress won’t even make it past preseason. Marcus Wheaton may not be a starter in September, but let’s see how he does in the preseason because he could surprise everyone. I can see Burress as an asset in the red zone, on plays here and there, but not as the workhorse anymore. Frankly there is only so much room on the roster. There are 11 wide receivers on the roster right now. Between training camp and preseason games, it’s going to seem like a revolving door at that position. I might need to set up a grid with the names and numbers for reference.
James Harrison is gone. Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Larry Foote, and Brett Keisel have earned the veteran title and everyone wonders if they will retire after this season. How are the Steelers going to balance experience with the new and younger talent or will they rely on the tried and true? I can’t see that happening if they want to be competitive. I think the Steelers have some great talent and how they mix the veterans with the younger players can make for some exciting preseason games. Yes, none of the veterans will be in the preseason games much, but they will have to start testing out the mix before the regular season games start, right? If they wait to test that out until the regular season, they could risk losses that could make a difference in making the playoffs. How do they balance the risk of injury to the veterans with building chemistry and continuity? I’m looking forward to seeing Shamarko Thomas play too.
Hoping for excitement and not disappointment
So, I go into the training camp phase and the preseason games hoping for excitement. I hope for a sense that the Steelers are putting together a coherent strategy for 2013 and not just throwing things against the wall to see what will stick. Is it too much to hope for? I don’t even care if the Steelers lose all four preseason games because I like the sports pundits to make them the underdogs at the start of the season. I don’t want to see hype and huge expectations from the media. Yes, I’m excited for preseason and I’m hoping I’m not underwhelmed. However, I have lost a little trust over the last couple of years and worry I will be frustrated and underwhelmed. What do you think Steeler nation? What do you want to see from the preseason?